Newly elected public relations officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Medical Association Dr Sankar Moonan has said that it was up to the doctors and specialists at the Neonatal Unit of the Port of Spain General Hospital to determine whether the baby of Joanne and Winston Ammon should receive a blood transfusion or a substitute drug, Erythropoietin (EPO).
The Jehovah’s Witnesses couple had objected to a transfusion on the grounds of religious beliefs, but head of the Neonatal Unit Dr Petronella Manning-Alleyne asked the State to intervene in the case of the premature baby boy.
The court ruled that the transfusion should take place and made the child a ward of the State.
A nurse at the Neonatal Unit would only say the baby boy was “a premature infant, still on support”.
Sankar said doctors at the unit made decisions based on medical diagnoses of the patients. He stressed that these doctors were more than qualified in their areas, and would make decisions in the best interest of the child.
Gordon Headley, an elder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith who is the national representative on medical matters, said the Ammons-who declined to speak with the Sunday Express-would have been much happier if an alternative method of treatment was used, like EPO.
Asked if the health of the child could have been the reason why doctors vetoed the parents’ request to use EPO, as the blood transfusion would have worked faster, Headley denied this.
He admitted though that EPO takes as much as three to four days before it begins to work on an individual’s system, but reiterated that the Ammon infant could have been treated with EPO instead of the transfusion.
Dr Umang Minocha, who treated a baby in 1994 using EPO, told the Sunday Express that she agreed to the use of the drug after the parents refused to allow a blood transfusion. “That was in an extreme case. I do not like the idea of not giving blood transfusion,” Minocha said from her office at the Gulf View Medical Centre.
“I don’t advocate that babies who need urgent blood transfusion use EPO. It is dangerous. “It was something I acceded to in order to save the life of a child,” she said.
Moonan said he has heard of the drug being used locally and has had no adverse reports about it.